Notes: Wilson feeling weak

Notes: Wilson feeling weak

CINCINNATI -- Jack Wilson says he never regained his strength after undergoing an emergency appendectomy in December.

The possibility that Wilson's struggles at the plate this season are the result of a physical problem was news to Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon.

"First I've heard of it," McClendon said. "I see Jack struggling to get hits. He's [swinging at pitches] out of the strike zone. He was starting to come out of it last week. We'll continue to work to get Jack better."

According to Wilson, the diagnosis is simple.

"Obviously I'm not feeling 100 percent," he said. "If I was feeling 100 percent, I wouldn't be batting .190."

Actually, Wilson is batting .192. He's 3-for-23 in his last five games.

Wilson's appendix burst at his home in California on Dec. 21. He lost 15 pounds following the surgery and it's been a long road back for the Pirates infielder.

Despite his belief that the season-long slump is physical in nature, Wilson plans to continue his normal workout routine and not pursue further medical treatment.

"I go to the gym as much as I can," he said. "I just have to let it run its course. There might be some super medication you can take, but it's probably illegal."

Wilson batted .308 last season with 11 home runs and 59 RBIs. He signed a two-year, $8 million contract two weeks after his surgery.

McClendon has tried batting Wilson in various spots in the order in an attempt to shake things up. Wilson batted seventh on Thursday and went 1-for-5 with a double.

Wilson was not in the lineup on Friday. He did not consider a day off to be the cure.

"A day off is not going to, all of a sudden, make you feel any different," he said.

Bench squad: Bobby Hill was sporting a T-shirt in the Pirates clubhouse on Thursday which read: "Bench Squad: If we were good we'd be starters".

McClendon believes his key reserves just need some more playing time.

The Bucs skipper inserted Freddy Sanchez at shortstop on Friday, and he's considering getting Hill a start within the next couple of days.

"I'm just trying to get Freddy some time," McClendon said. "If Freddy and Bobby are going to be productive we need to get them some starts. We have to do that to keep them sharp."

Positives on Perez: McClendon offered rave reviews for Oliver Perez's outing on Thursday night.

"The more he pitches, the better he gets," McClendon said. "As his legs get stronger, he'll get into a groove."

The Reds tallied just three hits off Perez in 5 1/3 innings. He allowed two earned runs, one on Felipe Lopez's solo home run in the first inning. Perez fanned five consecutive Reds batters at one point.

"He's throwing strikes," said McClendon. "I think we need to put to rest all of the talk about Oliver Perez being the next Sandy Koufax. We need to just let Oliver be Oliver."

More Mack: Rob Mackowiak continues to mash the ball in May.

His 3-for-4 performance on Thursday raised his batting average to a Major League-leading .436 for the month.

Although Mackowiak has displayed a tendency to be a streak hitter throughout his career, McClendon believes the third baseman might just be coming into his own for good.

"I see a much more mature hitter," McClendon said. "He's getting his walks and his strikeouts are down."

Baby Bucs: Bryan Bullington allowed three earned runs on six hits in five innings but earned a no-decision in Indianapolis' 11-3 loss to Charlotte. Jon Nunnally went 3-for-4 with a triple in the loss. ... Tom Evans hit his fourth home run of the season and drove in three, but it wasn't enough for Altoona, who lost, 7-4, to Norwich. ... Lynchburg improved its record to 27-18 with a 3-2 victory over Frederick. Starting pitcher Wardell Starling allowed only two earned runs on four hits to earn his fourth victory of the season. Christopher Hernandez notched his seventh save. Shortstop Javier Guzman went 2-for-3 with a triple. ... Hickory had only three hits, and starting pitcher Kurt Shafer allowed six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings as the Crawdads lost, 10-1, at Columbus.

Coming up: The Pirates and Reds continue their four-game series at Great American Ball Park with a matchup of left-handers Saturday. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET. Dave Williams will be looking for his fifth victory of the season for the Bucs. He'll be opposed by Reds lefty Eric Milton. Prior to Saturday's game, the Reds will retire the uniform number of Big Red Machine manager Sparky Anderson, who led the club to four pennants and two World Series titles in the 1970's.

Jeff Wallner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.